“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.”
The March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy – have gone through thick and thin with their mother while their father left home as a Chaplain for the Civil War. With four different and distinct personalities, the sisters continue to get along, and share their journeys in family, health, work, love, and life.
Josephine “Jo” March, the independent writer
Popularly known as the protagonist of this story, Jo March had already made it clear that she detested the socially-acceptable norms of becoming a lady (or as mention in the book, a little woman). She is independent and protective of her family – taking it upon herself to support the family during the time of their father’s absence, and almost always the first one to comfort her sisters during a bad day. She is also able to stand by what she believes in – rejecting Laurie and a perceived, easier life for her career and the fact that she does not love him in that way.
However, she does show signs of being somewhat a conformist – using phrases like “I wish I had been born a boy!” or saying that she took more pleasure in playing “boys’ games”, instead of going along the lines of saying that women are as capable as men. This could be attributed to the time the story was published (1868) where she might not have the exposure due to her upbringing.
Lastly, her passion for reading and writing presents her as one who has a thirst for knowledge despite her circumstances. Forced to leave school before she was 15, she continued to feed her hunger for knowledge with Aunt March’s library, going further to share the knowledge by opening a school with her husband, intellectual-soulmate Friedrich Bhaer, for children.
Women and Society…
While Jo March has always been marketed as a new feminist, and Little Women, a novel which talks about the progression of women and the questioning of gender roles over the years, I do feel that all four March sisters represent a facet of the values the author probably held dear.
Margaret / Meg represents the wisdom and the manner to conduct herself and stick by her stand without turning crude or violent. While critics often note Meg as “weak” or “conformist”, what many miss out is the courage and the wisdom Meg has when it comes to advising her sisters, especially when it deals with conversations or presences with others. Having the wisdom to carry oneself while staying true to yourself is not easy, especially in a time where appearances seemed to determine your life.
Josephine / Jo represents independence and drive to go for one’s goals and dreams. Unlike her sisters, Jo charges forth with great drive, seeing her life journey as her own and going for goals set by herself, not what is expected of her by society.
Elizabeth / Beth represents kindness and charity to both strangers and people around you. While she is shy and had been sick, Beth spared no effort in extending kindness and charity where she went – putting others before herself. While her life was unfortunate in the eyes of the general society, her kindness was contagious, spreading to headstrong people like Amy and Jo – leaving a legacy of kindness and showing that a little kindness and patience does last a long way.
Amy represents creativity and an appreciation of beauty through open expression. Despite being shown as self-centered or greedy, she is one of the sisters whose passion for art and drawing never really died out through the book. She does not draw for money, as Jo writes for both passion and money, but more out of the appreciation of the things surrounding her. Her observation allows her to stop and smell the roses, as people have been increasingly urged to do so.
Style & Structure
While the story was mainly told through the third-person narrative, there were snippets of the first-person voice of the narrator in certain areas. Going through the times linearly, it reflects that time and life will neither rewind for us, nor will it fast forward. The sisters are shown to grow gradually, both personally and with each other, without convenient breaks where no one knows what happened. That, in itself, does portray a somewhat more accurate reflection of life.
Little Women was written by Louisa May Alcott and has been printed and reprinted through the years. To find out more about the book, click here.
In the meantime…